Closing Variety’s Purpose: Family Entertainment & Faith-Based Summit was the Storytellers Super Session panel, a discussion about balancing faith and business when undertaking projects.
Panelists included “Noah” Producer Cale Boyter, the producer of Oxygen’s “Preachers” reality franchise Lemuel Plummer, “Heaven Is For Real” producer DeVon Franklin and “Minority Report” actress Meagan Good. Jack Hafer, director of Biola University’s Cinema & Media Arts Program, moderated the panel. Below are four major talking points from the discussion.
1. Along with entertainment comes responsibility.
The panelists unanimously agreed that the same rules apply in Christian storytelling as any other genre. The one exception, in their opinion, is that along with business comes responsibility.
“We are in the business of entertainment. We have to lead with how it’s going to be entertaining, but at the same time it can also touch people,” said Franklin.
2. Faith-based films can be fun.
Boyter, who produced “Wedding Crashers,” shared that as funny as the film was, it had “no soul” to it. He believes that faith-based entertainment can attract a contemporary audience without losing morality.
“You gotta take them on a ride. You can’t make them feel like they’re sitting in Sunday school,” said Boyter. “We’re trying to do something different. We’re trying to subvert from within.”
3. Faith-based reality TV can succeed by targeting the right audience.
Plummer said that during a bidding war with numerous networks, he chose to value viewership over branding. According to him, the “Preachers” franchise has profited by sharing Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club” audience.
“For my company, it’s all about how we get young people engaged and want to watch television that is inspiring, but also will also challenge them,” he said.
Franklin agreed that faith-based entertainment has the ability to grow in the coming years if it continues to bring good stories to the public. “My concern is, in 10 years, if we keep treating this like a small thing for a small group of people, we’re going to continue to get smaller.”
4. The Bible has an infinite supply of studio-ready stories.
According to Franklin, former Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal begged for another “Heaven Is For Real“ because the film did well financially.
“We got to think of ourselves as the greatest storytellers on the planet,” he said. “The Bible is the most popular book in the world and guess what? It’s filled with stories. The foundation of our faith comes from stories, the greatest stories ever told.”